All business transformations require effective leadership buy-in and communication. The executive and management teams sponsoring a major change in an organization are tasked with an important mission: what to communicate to employees and how to say it.
Any major business change – such as an ERP implementation or business process reengineering initiative – can result in quite a bit of fear, uncertainty and resistance among employees.
On the surface, an ERP implementation may look like a new system is being implemented by the IT department. In reality, however, it entails changing business processes, taking away tools and methods that employees may have helped create over the years. It requires employees to learn an entirely new system. In some cases the new ERP system may entail a redistribution of job roles and responsibilities. With this backdrop in mind, it’s no wonder that employees typically fear the worst and resist change.
This brings us back to leadership communication. In order to alleviate the employee anxieties outlined above, effective executives and managers need to focus on several key components of their messaging:
What is the big picture change? First, you need to communicate the big picture vision of the change itself. Whether the transformation involves a new ERP system, all new business process reengineering or an outsourcing initiative, it is important to outline the context of the change, including the general description and scope of the transformation.
Why are we changing? The next big question on everyone’s minds will be, “why are we changing?” Whether the reason for the change is to improve efficiency, better serve customers, improve the financial results of the company or any other organizational reasons, it is vital to communicate those details to employees so they understand why it is important to the company’s health, success and viability.
How does the change affect me? Employees want to understand what the change means to them individually. How exactly will their jobs change? What will happen to the “old way” of doing things? How will they be trained on the new processes and systems? All of these and other questions need to be clearly communicated to ensure that they can accept and embrace the changes.
There is no boilerplate, one-size fits all communication strategy that works for every organization. It needs to be customized to fit your culture, industry and employee base. There are two things one must consider when determining how to communicate to their employees:
Medium. Simply relying on one channel is not effective. It is best to leverage multiple channels to get your message across. It is imperative to remember that different people learn in different ways. While some may retain information shared via email, others may need to have a discussion in person or attend a classroom training to fully absorb the changes.
Frequency. It takes seven repetitions for the average person to retain a message. Remember that you have a deeper understanding of the message than your employees do, so do not be afraid to repeat the same message until you are blue in the face..
Remember that the messages you communicate as a leader will largely determine how effective your business transformation will be. The mechanics of the transformation isn’t nearly as important as how well you rally the troops to support and enable the changes to your organization. This communication plan should be an integral part of your overall organizational change management strategy.
ERP software implementations often entail significant organizational disruption, risk, uncertainty, and anxiety among an implementing company’s employees, customers, and vendors. Learn more about how to create an organizational change strategy that your employees will accept by registering for our webinar, Five Key Organizational Change Management Challenges With ERP Implementations.